O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you;
Of you my heart has spoken: Seek his face;
Hide not your face from me, alleluia
Gospel – John 17:20-26
Reflecting on the Gospel (Source: Living Liturgy 2013)
One of the best compliments children can pay their parents is to mimic them. Small children seem to do it naturally. We’ve all seen the little guy take large steps and put a swagger in his walk, imitating his father. Or we’ve seen the little gal wait for the right moment to get at her mother’s makeup and apply it – usually with rather garish results! When the relationship between children and parents is healthy and strong, the children grow up to imitate their parents in much more consequential ways; for example, in continuing family values, upright living, or rearing their own children through loving relationships. Jesus’ prayer in this Sunday’s gospel is essentially a prayer that we imitate Jesus.
This Sunday’s gospel – just a week before Pentecost – situates us with Jesus at the supper with his disciples the night before he died. Jesus, always the loving one, naturally turns to prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays that the intimate love and union he shares with his Father may take root in his disciples. Experiencing such divine love and intimate union enables and sustains the disciples who are to take up Jesus’ mission to the world. In fact, love and unity among believers is their primary mission, their first witness to the glory of the risen presence of Christ. Our love for each other is God’s love in us spilling over. Our unity as the Body of Christ is God’s life abounding in us in word and truth. This love and unity is a sign to the world about who Jesus is: the risen One united perfectly with his Father and with us.
The first reading illustrates for us a disciple’s love and intimate union with Jesus. Stephen’s vision of the “glory of God” was possible because the love of God had taken such deep root in him. This love sustained him and kept him focused on God even at the moment of his martyrdom. In his very moment of martyrdom Stephen repeats the words of Jesus from the cross: “receive my spirit” and “do not hold this sin against them”. He witnesses union with Jesus, the Father, and the human community, the very things for which Jesus prays in the gospel. He witnesses how faithful disciples imitate the risen One. He witnesses where faithful and deep love take us: to eternal glory.
This is the greatest compliment we can pay to Jesus: imitate him. Ultimately, this is what discipleship means: imitate him. This is how we are to live as disciples: imitate him. This is the call of the new life of resurrection: imitate him. This is the challenge of Pentecost: imitate him.
Living the Paschal mystery
Paschal transformation is allowing ourselves to be made into a gift – wrapped in love, tied by unity, and delivered by the word. The first reading is a concrete example of a disciple who is a gift to Jesus. Stephen puts the paschal mystery into action, where the gospel always takes us. He preaches the Good News, accepts the fatal consequences, and forgives those who love not. Stephen willingly embraces his death because he knows this is the way to eternal glory and life.
We have been given the glory (presence) of Jesus so that others may see the glory. How do others see the glory? Through our love, unity, and forgiveness which reflect the glory of God. Thus paschal mystery living is more than a “not yet” ideal for which we strive and one day at the end of our human lives will be brought to perfection. It is at the same time the “already” of the glory of God revealed first through Jesus and now through us, his disciples.